R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

With the sad news that Carrie Fisher has passed away at the young age of 60, here’s a clip of her being interviewed along with Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill on the Today show back in 1977 after the release of “Star Wars.” Princess Leia will be missed . . .

  

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Felicity Jones discusses Stormtroopers

Yes, shooting Stormtroopers has to be fun as the lovely Felicity Jones explains in this clip, but she explains they also make her a little bit jumpy as well. We’re definitely looking forward to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” which premiered last night.

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A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991’s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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Fresh, full of life, and in a galaxy far, far away

I’ve had a long, long day dealing with various bits of family business and my brain really isn’t fully functional right about now. So, stumbling over a YouTube meme in which usually ultraviolent scenes from classic films are recut to the music from Mentos commercials was really just what I needed. I have no explanation of why my two favorites are from “Star Wars” movies. I’ll just have to live with it.

Really, all commercials would be improved by featuring a Christopher Lee decapitation scene.

  

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RIP Irvin Kershner (updated)

Irvin Kershner, who died Saturday at age 87, was a solid journeyman director, his early films — several of which, especially “The Flim-Flam Man” and “The Luck of Ginger Coffey” are supposed to be pretty good — are obscure enough that even I haven’t seen too many of them. He was also a graduate of the USC Film School in 1950, which makes him, I guess, about the first of the film school brats.

He’s known today primarily because of two strong, dramatic action films. The first was a 1976 fact-based TV movie, “Raid on Entebbe.” The second was, uh-hmm, “The Empire Strikes Back.” For one film in the series, a “Star Wars” film had a genuinely well-written screenplay with good dialogue and a director who knew how to elicit strong work from actors and structure a dramatic moment. For some reason, everyone agrees it was the best of the series. Watch this scene again, though you’ve certainly seen it before. There’s emotion going on.

Kershner was, I gather, a gracious and intelligent man. Here is a brief tribute/outtake from the documentary “The Nature of Existence” in which Kershner endorses “the Force” in a way, while also speaking out for a spiritual, but entirely non-supernatural view of life, death, and creativity.

Much more, as usual, at MUBI.

UPDATE: The fine blogger Greg Ferrara argues that “The Luck of Ginger Coffey” was a lot better than “pretty good.”

  

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